Looking back on “A Day To Practice” with Rohini….

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Murray Edwards College, Cambridge
May 18th, 2019

At this workshop, twenty of us were able to spend an entire day with Rohini, experiencing her teaching in person and receiving shaktipat from her. The workshop was divided into two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with a few breaks including an hour for lunch at a nearby pub. After the workshop, many of us joined Rohini for dinner at a restaurant.

The morning session started at 9:30 with a reception in an atrium downstairs from the teaching room in which the workshop proper would unfold. For some attendees, it was their first chance to meet Rohini in person. A few were encountering her for the first time in any way. Many of us met each other for the first time as well. There was a strong sense of community that arose from gathering to be with Rohini. We were all there for a shared purpose: to strengthen and deepen our sadhana.

Rohini started the workshop with two readings. The first was a passage from Baba’s book Secret of the Siddhas describing the course of an ordinary life lived in ignorance. The second was her poem “mild medium intense,” which is about how shaktipat has varying degrees of intensity, and how people differ in what they receive from it. As Rohini then said, “We are not here to optimize our shrunken selves.” From the start, she emphasized the true goal of spiritual practice.

Rohini continued by raising the question, “Who is the Guru?” The Guru is, as she explained, the Grace-bestowing power of God that can work through an individual. Following a brief discussion, she shifted the question to “What is shaktipat?” After some students ventured answers, she defined it as initiation through an infusion of spiritual energy from the Guru, who can give shaktipat through touch, look, word, or thought. She also read a technical passage from Swami Vishnu Tirtha’s book Devatma Shakti that explains how shaktipat unfolds through our vehicles.

From here, Rohini moved on to the question, “What is meditation?” She clarified that in meditation, which is sustained one-pointed attention, the object of attention is crucial: a cat can meditate intensely on a mouse, but there is nothing spiritual in that. At the first level, we focus on an outward object such as the breath. At the second level, we focus on a mantra or other sacred words. At the third level, our will is directed completely toward the Heart. As she explained, we must bore inward through the gross physical, subtle, and causal bodies to the supracausal body, the dwelling place of the Heart. This means going consciously through the corresponding states of wakefulness, dreaming, and dreamless sleep to turiya, the state of the Witness of all other states.

After Rohini explained all this, we spent an hour in meditation. Rohini circulated among us and gave us all shaktipat by touch. Many of us had intense experiences; some of us were overwhelmed. When we shared our experiences afterward, Rohini helped people understand what had happened. She explained that kriyas, the involuntary movements the shakti gives rise to, are there to purify our vehicles. She made it clear to one student that it is okay to have your physical breathing stop during meditation as long as you remain focused on the Heart. She also removed that student’s anxiety; all the student had to do was look into Rohini’s eyes and be open to Grace. In the same way, Rohini burned up an old sadness in another student. This was the Guru’s Grace in action; many of us had seen or experienced it before, but it was entirely new to others. When a participant asked about what comes after awakening, Rohini explained that after shaktipat, our practice is not only about self-effort but is assisted by Grace.

After our lunch break at The Castle, Rohini opened the afternoon session by responding to a participant’s question about any “tension” there might be between sadhana and Rohini’s work in the world through I.R. Consilium. Rohini explained that there is no tension—sadhana is something we should do internally at all times, whatever our outward activities might be. She said, “There is no conflict between being a warrior and meditating,” and that a true warrior always comes from the place of interior stillness that sadhana makes possible for us.

Rohini then taught us about the cause and nature of bondage. We are wrongly identified with our vehicles, she explained, because we have forgotten our true nature as the Self of All. Using the three malas, or impurities, of Kashmir Shaivism (“I am separate,” “I am imperfect,” and “I am the doer of good and bad deeds”) and the five kleshas, or afflictions, of Yoga (ignorance, loss of subject in object, attraction, repulsion, and clinging to the life of the shrunken self), she clarified how we contract into shrunken existence. She also used five hacky sacks to illustrate how, as we go deeper within in our practice, what we used to think of as ourselves is revealed to be an object: “If you can perceive it, it cannot be you.” As we live from deeper and deeper within, we begin to master and use our vehicles instead of being used by them. After reading a passage from Baba’s Secret of the Siddhas on the nature of turiya, Rohini revealed to several of us in the room exactly what our wrong identifications were. They ranged from our physical body to our senses, personality, emotions, energy, work, relationships, and causal body. Rohini gave us the answers we needed before we could even ask the question. When a student asked which practice will get us beyond wrong identification, Rohini answered with the core of sadhana: be with your experience of the moment, let whatever comes up within come up, and function appropriately on the physical plane.

After this, Rohini explained the nature of the mind. First, she asked for Patanjali’s definition of Yoga: stilling the modifications of the mind. She then laid out for us the five modifications of consciousness (right knowledge, wrong knowledge, fancy, sleep, and memory) and the three parts of the psychic instrument: manas (the data collector), buddhi (the intellect, which makes decisions about the data), and ahamkara (the ego, which identifies with those decisions). When she explained the obstacles to practice and the symptoms of a distracted mind, she pointed out how often we try to distract ourselves from the symptoms of our distracted minds: “It’s not that you need to distract yourself; it’s that you’re already distracted. You need to turn in.”

Rohini used a two-sided mirror stand to show how the intellect comes to believe that it is the subject when in reality it is enlivened and illuminated by the true Subject, the Self. To drive this realization home, she read part of the story of Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen. When the Fifth Patriarch asked his disciples for a poem showing their understanding of Reality, his chief disciple wrote a poem about cleaning the mirror of the intellect and keeping it free from dust. Hui-neng, who was illiterate, dictated a poem revealing his true knowledge of the Absolute, beyond the intellect, where there is no mirror. Hui-neng was much closer to the goal. Rohini pointed out how many of us turn our practice into a monotonous round of cleaning our mirrors and soiling them, over and over again, because we love our problems.

At this point, students from elsewhere Webexed in for the weekly Lessons and Questions class. This was a very different experience for Rohini’s students in Maryland, who were accustomed to having this class in Rohini’s presence but now could see what it was like to have class from far away, as part of a much larger community. After a brief discussion of how, like baking, sadhana is not about some recipe but about from where within ourselves we are operating at each moment, Rohini led us in working on fourchotomies. The first two were “keep fighting” and “surrender to what is.” After two students worked on those, another worked on “data-driven.” Then a participant who hadn’t studied with Rohini before sought to understand how fourchotomies work. With Rohini’s guidance, several of us wrestled alongside him to help him understand two fourchotomies about qualities he valued: “athletic” and “kind.” The process helped all of us clarify our understanding of fourchotomies.

Athletic

Unfit

Obsessive

Enjoying life

Kind

Cruel

Pampering

Strict

After Lessons and Questions, we meditated for the better part of an hour. Again, Rohini gave each of us shaktipat by touch. People had a range of experiences, as being with Rohini for the whole workshop and receiving shaktipat had changed all of us in ways that were just beginning to manifest. After we shared some of our experiences, the students of EU Satsang presented Rohini with a gift for her seventieth birthday: money to buy a tree for the garden at her home in Maryland, with a lovely card painted by Rachel Brack Sharp. Rohini thanked them and thanked everyone for coming. We thanked her for her Grace, Love, and instruction. Then some of us gathered for dinner as a group, where Rohini was presented with a birthday cake baked by one of her students.

This was one day, but it was a day that can continue to transform our lives and lead us toward Love if we follow it up by practicing with persistence and rigor. We can’t always be with Rohini in person—for some of us, that will only happen once in a great while—but she is always with us. Those attendees who just met her should remember that we all can experience her guidance and instruction through her live classes, her blog posts, her videos on YouTube, and especially her website. We can subscribe to receive her blog posts via email, and more importantly we can subscribe at three different levels to her website and be able to visit, and revisit, hundreds of classes archived in video and audio.

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